“Content marketing” may just be a buzzword to some, but the approach is anything but short-lived. Content marketing has become a holistic way to look at how you create and make content visible. It combines search marketing with branding, the art of writing itself, and a whole lot of strategy.
One could argue that we’ve always been in the business of marketing content in the world of search, but what’s different today is that the quality of the content is at the forefront, instead of just the tactics to gain visibility for that content. It’s that missing piece that’s gaining importance. Businesses now want to create content that’s purposeful, of good quality, and supports the brand and the business goals. And they want it delivered to their audience wherever they are online, at the moment they are looking for the information they want.
So it’s important to think about content as something that helps your business do whatever it needs to do online, better. It’s a part of every search marketing discipline you perform, as well as a catalyst for new approaches to “traditional” disciplines like branding, sales, and public relations. Because what is your content if not a reflection of your company? And what is your content if it doesn’t speak to your audience?
In this article, we’ll take a look at a healthy approach to a content marketing strategy and development that marries conventional marketing with web marketing to create content that reflects your brand, connects with your audience, and fuels your business goals.
Your Business Goals Should Drive Content Strategy
The beginning stages of a content marketing strategy should always be fueled by business goals. To start, ask what your company’s business goals are for the next year and then for the next three years. Your content strategy should do its best to support these goals.
A B2B who wants to increase sales in a particular sector needs to create a strategy that ramps up content about that product or service driven by keywords people are using in search plus an an understanding of what type of content is best for that stage in the conversion funnel. All this, while taking care to provide highly useful information for that topic.
In this model, the purpose of every content asset you create is to support the content strategy, which in turn supports the business goals.
Your Brand Should Drive Content Development
Branding is about understanding the company inside and out — what it stands for, its strengths and weaknesses, what it sounds and feels like, its differentiators, and its audience. Without this understanding, we can’t create a foundation for content that speaks on behalf of the brand to a specific audience.
Without knowing who you are talking to and where they are in the conversion funnel, your keyword set is just a bunch of words and your content falls flat. Context is everything in content creation and strategy.
Brand-driven content first examines important attributes about the organization, its products and services, and then applies that to the content creation process. Some research that will enrich your content includes:
1. Examine the company’s products/services.
|Product/service attributes||Product/service features|
|Product/service benefits||Product/service uses|
|Product/service story||Product/service differentiators|
2. Analyze the organization.
|Company attributes||Company values|
|Company story||Employee persona|
|Company culture||Brand differentiators|
3. Look at the competition to examine content strategy and creation.
- Who are your competitors? Market competitors? Online competitors?
- Who is linking to your competition and why?
- Who is your competition’s audience?
- What does your competition’s content strategy look like?
- What do you like and not like about what competitors are doing online with content?
- What publications and events exist in this industry (gives clues about important topics).
- What samples of content can you find similar in depth and breadth to what you want to create?
4. Define the brand’s image.
- How does the company look, feel, and sound metaphorically? Brainstorming with imagery and video can help convey abstract concepts, which provides content creators with an attainable image.
- What is the relationship the brand has with its audience — how does that feel? This helps content creators speak to the audience in a way that upholds the brand.
- What is the company’s value proposition?
Because the brand identity drives everything you do, every conversation you have, every story you tell in any format, you can begin to think about how you will communicate that in your content. What you uncover in this exercise helps lay the foundation for content creation.
Your Audience Should Drive All Stages Of Content Marketing
Marketers are always trying to understand their audience and its intent as users move about on the web. Understanding behavior and intent helps us create more meaningful experiences for users online. One way to insert meaning into the touch points between a brand and user online is to know who you are talking to and what matters to them, and use this in your content creation.
Find out which keywords are used at which stage of the conversion funnel, then figure out the type of content best for that keyword set. If you understand the audience and what they’re looking for, you can create content that draws them in. For example, if you’re a B2B that experiences a specific barrier to entry with your service, or you notice the same questions come up again and again once talks with the prospect have commenced, consider developing a white paper you can leave with prospects that answers those questions.
Conversely, someone in the beginning stages of the conversion funnel (the awareness stage) might best benefit from an introduction video on the concepts surrounding your products and services. Or maybe you know that one segment of your audience is bootstrappers who love do-it-yourself content — maybe an ebook is best for this crowd. Of course, you can always have multiple pieces of content for any one topic.
It’s becoming imperative that business pay attention to the intersection of content and marketing online. It’s no longer possible to see the two as separate entities. Looking ahead, those who succeed will always look at their search marketing efforts with content in mind as a way to reinforce their brand, a way to enhance and drive their business goals, and as a way to leverage the data they collect to create more of the type of content their audience wants and needs.
Tips For Understanding Your Audience
- How would you describe the typical customer? Segment this based on variances in a topic, product, or service.
- Why does your audience use your product/service? When do they use it?
- What matters to your customers and how does your brand/product/service become a part of that?
- Is the information customers seek different in various stages of the conversion funnel? If so, what type of content is most likely to give them what they need?
- Will any one persona of a product/service category ever cross over into other product/service categories?
- What are your audience’s frequently asked questions?
- What are common barriers to entry? Why do they say “no” to your product/service? Why do they say “yes”?
**Editor’s Note: This article first appeared as a premium article in our Fall 2012 issue of Search Marketing Standard magazine.
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